News Oct. 8

Senator Sanders

Afghanistan "The 9th year of the war in Afghanistan begins today with fears that it could be even more deadly than the previous eight. After a White House meeting with congressional leaders, Sen. Harry Reid remarked that everyone agreed to support whatever decision President Obama made. The real issue is that none of the outspoken advocates for a rethink of the occupation...and an exit strategy, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, were invited to this strategy session in a more-than-symbolic move," Peter Rothberg blogged for The Nation. LINK

Dairy Crisis Farmers in Europe registered outrage over plummeting dairy prices by driving hundreds of tractors into the center of Brussels and setting tires and bales of hay on fire, spraying manure at police lines, and pelting police with live chickens. "Dairy farmers here face an equally desperate situation, but are challenging it through legislative initiatives...Can you imagine a tractor convoy on the capital Beltway? Or Strolling of the Heifers becomes Storming of the Heifers, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leads the charge astride a giant Holstein?" asked Lancaster Farming.

Health Care - Vermont "If Shumlin should become our next governor (and I happen to believe he is our best chance for real health care reform progress) he has intimated that he will pull out all of the political stops to see that Vermont becomes a federally-enabled laboratory for reform. He told the audience at last week's health care forum in Brattleboro that he has been working closely with U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders to move the federal enabling legislation forward while positioning Vermont to be one of the laboratory states if the legislation passes," Richard Davis wrote in the Brattleboro Reformer. LINK

Health Care - Town Meetings Rep. Peter Welch will hold two forums Saturday to discuss the proposed health care reform legislation being considered by Congress and how it would affect Vermonters. The forums -- in Williston and White River Junction -- will provide an opportunity for Vermonters to weigh in on the legislation. Sen. Bernie Sanders held three similar events in August in Arlington, Peacham and Rutland that drew hundreds of people, The Burlington Free Press reported on its Web page. LINK

International

White House Weighs Pakistan's Role in Winning War Recognizing the U.S. can neither win in Afghanistan nor succeed more broadly against al-Qaida without Pakistan's cooperation, President Barack Obama's war council is weighing a new role for Pakistan in the 8-year-old struggle in the region. Obama planned sessions Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Oval Office to continue the intense discussion about the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported. LINK

Afghanistan A USA Today Gallup poll found three-fourths of Republicans support sending more troops; six in 10 Democrats oppose it. Among all Americans, the divide is almost even, with 48 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed. Most of those opposed say Obama should begin to withdraw U.S. troops rather than commit more. Those attitudes contrast with public opinion when the war began Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. According to a poll taken that day, nine of 10 Americans approved of the military action against Afghanistan. Just 5 percent disapproved. LINK

National

Health Care Bill Gets Green Light in Cost Analysis The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The New York Times said the much-anticipated cost analysis showed the bill meeting President Obama's main requirements, including his demand that health legislation not add "one dime to the deficit." LINK

Obama Seeks Ways Keep Joblessness from Sinking Recovery Under pressure to stop rising joblessness from sinking a fragile recovery, President Obama met Wednesday with top congressional Democratic leaders to fashion new strategies to bolster the U.S. economy. Having underestimated the severity of the recession early this year, they face tough choices on how to ease the financial pain of millions of jobless workers and ensure that the recovery continues, according to the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Obama Choice for Labor Post Advances but Then Meets a G.O.P. Roadblock The New York State labor commissioner, President Obama's nominee to be the Labor Department's top enforcement official, won approval from a Senate committee Wednesday but immediately encountered a roadblock when the committee's senior Republican said he would put a "hold" on the nomination. Such action by a senator can significantly delay a confirmation vote in the full chamber, by requiring 60 votes there for the nomination to be taken up, The New York Times reported. LINK

Congress May Extend Tax Credit for Homes Democratic Congressional leaders are working with the White House to extend an expiring $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, and aides said Wednesday that they were considering making it available to current homeowners who purchase a new residence. Extending and possibly expanding the popular home-buyers credit, which is due to expire after November, is high among options for further stimulating the economy and creating jobs, Congressional aides told The New York Times. LINK

Ex-Staffers Winning Defense Panel Pork In the coming year's military spending bill, members of a House panel continue to steer lucrative defense contracts to companies represented by their former staffers, who in turn steer generous campaign donations to those lawmakers, The Washington Post reported. The Center for Public Integrity found that 10 of the 16 members of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations obtained 30 earmarks in the bill worth $103 million for contractors currently or recently employing former staffers who have become lobbyists. LINK

Obama Aims to Boost Funding for Pell Grants by $40 Billion After three years of major increases in federal Pell grants for needy college students, President Obama aims to boost the aid further with $40 billion in funding over the next decade, The Washington Post reported. Even that influx might not ensure that the grants will recover and sustain the purchasing power they once held. Experts agree on the reason: soaring college costs. LINK

Vermont

UVM Tuition Hike University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel said Wednesday he will propose a 6 percent tuition hike at the school for the next academic year, a proposal that requires the approval of the school's board of directors in May 2010. Meeting with the Times Argus and Rutland Herald editorial board, Fogel said tuition has climbed a similar percentage annually in recent years. LINK

Senate '10 Daniel Freilich, a medical doctor and captain in the U.S. Navy, officially begins his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy today, the Vermont Press Bureau reported. Unlike other challenges Leahy has faced, however, Freilich's approach is from the left side of the political spectrum. He said the U.S. Senate is standing in the way of progress on important issues such as universal access to health care and a more progressive tax structure. LINK